The first visit to a dispensary can be a bit surreal, especially if the bulk of your marijuana purchases have been done in a back alley sort of scenario. But dispensaries are nothing to be feared (and can actually be quite enjoyable) as long as you go into them armed with some basic dispensary etiquette.
Research popular dispensaries
There are hundreds of dispensaries in Colorado, each with their own set of benefits and drawbacks. For example, some dispensaries may provide top notch marijuana while others are known for their great deals or awesome hours. There is definitely a dispensary that will fit your needs, but you'll have to find it first. Do research online and ask friends about their favorite dispensaries and why. If you do so beforehand you can be better prepared for what to expect.
Update: We now offer our visitors the opportunity to create an account and review their favorite dispensaries across the site! Click the top right button “Login or Sign Up” to create an account and start reviewing shops today. Just looking around? Check out the individual dispensary profile pages to see what people are saying!
Have a plan
So you want to buy legal weed, but what kind and how much? By establishing your budget and ideal shopping list before heading in, you will be more likely to make a wise purchase instead of relying on impulse buys. Plus, if you know what you want beforehand, you'll make your budtender -- and everyone waiting behind you -- very happy.
Bring a current, state-issued ID or passport
Temporary identification won't cut it in the dispensaries here in Colorado, so if you want to make a purchase (or even get inside), be sure to bring the proper identification every time. Whomever is working the front desk will need to confirm that your ID is legit just to let you in, then your budtender will need to do the same before the purchase, so it is vital that you have it with you.
Though some dispensaries can accept credit and debit cards, clashing interests of federally-owned banking systems make it more difficult for others. This is why we recommend bringing cash until you know for sure what your favorite dispensary's policy is. Plus, cash makes it easier to leave a tip for your budtender.
Leave your cell phone at home
Most dispensaries have a strict "no photo" policy and will therefore restrict phone usage inside. Even for those who don't limit cell phone use, the simple act of using it (chatting, texting or shooting photos) can be a major distraction and waste of everyone's time. Have some courtesy and put your phone away while inside. It'll do you good.
Respect each other's space
Pharmacies almost always have a line that customers are expected to wait behind to help protect other patients' privacy. Dispensaries often do the same. Though it may not always be as clearly defined, it is important to give customers in front of you ample space so that their medical conditions and other personal information can remain confidential.
Ask questions, but don't go overboard
There is a lot to take in when you first go into a dispensary so it's common -- even expected -- that you'll have a few questions about the products. Whether you're uncertain about edible dosing or specific strains or simply curious about budtender recommendations, your questions will be welcome as long as they don't start cutting too far into the next customer's time. You can probably expect to spend between five and 15 minutes with your budtender before anyone starts to get antsy.
Don't haggle your budtender
Just because your budtender is selling you weed doesn't mean he controls it. He can't front you a sack or throw you an extra nug no matter how much you sweet talk him or threaten him with a poor review. That's because all marijuana products are closely tracked from seed to sell in order to help prevent unlawful distribution. If a budtender weighs heavy without permission, he could lose his job and the company could face severe repercussions. In other words, it won't happen so don't waste anyone's time by trying.
No consumption on dispensary property
Marijuana consumption is not allowed on public property and dispensaries are no exception. That means no packing a bowl, rolling a joint or toking anything anywhere near the facility. If you try to risk it anyway, there is a good chance you will be asked to leave as soon as a dispensary employee spots you doing so on one of their many security cameras.
There is no need to hang out at your local dispensary all day. You can't smoke weed there and you look suspicious when you're just chilling in your car. Plus, groups of people tend to deter customers from entering the dispensary so most store managers will frown upon it, too.
Don't bring your weed back into the store
During my time as a budtender, I witnessed a couple try to exchange some marijuana they had purchased earlier that day for something different -- and every employee in the store shuddered in fear. That's because the State of Colorado (PDF) has made it very clear that dispensaries can only sell marijuana products that have been both labeled and prepackaged from licensed distributors. If the store had accepted the exchange, the whole place could have been in big trouble with the state.
We understand that marijuana is somewhat notorious for producing paranoia (75 years of anti-marijuana propaganda doesn't help), but marijuana reform has come a long way and has brought with it both sophistication and security. Spa-like dispensaries are becoming the norm because they encourage patrons to relax and enjoy themselves. Many even function on a first-name basis to make the place feel more like home so don't worry when you visit the dispensary because every little thing is going to be alright.
Whether you’re planning your first trip to a dispensary or your 100th, practicing proper etiquette when you arrive will make the process much more enjoyable for everyone.
Is there anything you would add to the list?
Photo Credit: James Gillray (Public Domain)